by Megan Reichenbach
The Stop Online Piracy Act (also known as the Protect IP Act in the Senate) is a new initiative copyright owners are taking to “isolate and shut down websites or online services found with infringing content.”
Should we be worried?
SOPA’s primary goals seem to be legitimate, giving those artists the money they deserve for work that is being displayed online by others. The problem is that this bill has been reworked and now includes a requirement for pre-screening all user-contributed content.
In essence, we are looking at a future of broad Internet censorship . . . aka, changing the entire nature of what the Internet has become. Some even believe this act to be the “Great Firewall of America.”
In late October 2011, the House of Representatives introduced a bill that would extend our federal government’s ability to stop foreign sites from using pirated content developed by U.S. businesses. This includes websites that steal music, videos and software from U.S. corporations.
As I noted, the initial purpose of the bill seemed reasonable. Many people illegally download music, films and television series rather than paying the 99 cents to download from iTunes. In reality, such stinginess is leaving those music producers and filmmakers with empty pockets.
It’s estimated that Hollywood studios and record labels are losing up to a $135 billion a year from piracy alone.
But, eradicating domain names all together may “disrupt the way the Internet is designed to work today and put too much of a burden on search engines and Internet service providers in blocking suspected sites.”
The SOPA buzz
It’s no secret that SOPA has been the ongoing gossip in the cyber world. The bill suggests that those individuals and companies that publish about or link to others’ works may be accused of piracy.
This would include all of us who retweet, post or even write about another person’s publication. According to an infographic on Mashable.com, “sites you visit may be blocked, email providers may be forced to censor certain links you send or receive” and “the links and content you share on social networks will be carefully monitored and possibly censored.”
I just have one question . . . where are my privacy rights?
A threat to our future?
SOPA also threatens the future of job searching and innovation through online techniques. Sites such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook have recently been job searchers’ platforms for getting their names into the industry market.
Unlike traditional resume builders, LinkedIn, a professional social media site, allows individuals to offer links to personal sites such as Twitter and Facebook accounts, upload professional résumés and add photos to your profile.
Are we all going to have to resort back to the simple résumés built on Microsoft Word? This limit on creativity could be the catalyst for never getting that dream job.
Those of us searching for a job in this ever-so-difficult market need to have the ability to put our names out there in ways that show off our individuality. The sites Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have given us that opportunity.
In retaliation to the serious risk the bill is imposing, AOL, eBay, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Mozilla, Twitter, Yahoo and Zynga sent a letter to the U.S. Congress voicing their concerns.
These companies respect the goal of enforcing additional tactics to combat illegitimate copyright and counterfeit sites. But, they urge the legislators to “preserv[e] the innovation and dynamism that [have] made the Internet such an important driver of economic growth and job creation.”
Instead of tweeting about Kourtney Kardashian’s recent pregnancy announcement or who will play in the national college football championship, maybe we should all be concerned with the direction the Internet is going. Are all of our posts, tweets and blog postings going to be accused of counterfeit?